People who fail to brush their teeth twice a day may be putting themselves at risk of heart disease. A study of more than 11,000 adults backs previous research linking gum disease with heart problems. More work is needed to confirm whether poor oral health directly causes heart disease or is a marker of risk.
BBC News reports:
“It is known that inflammation in the body, including in the mouth and gums, has an important role in the build up of clogged arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. But this is the first time that researchers have looked at whether the frequency of teeth brushing has any bearing on the risk of developing heart disease.”
BBC News May 28, 2010
British Medical Journal May 28, 2010; 340:c2451
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
Cancer is likely the most common reason you will die, but if you include all age groups, heart disease is the leading killer of Americans. An estimated 785,000 Americans suffered heart attacks in 2009, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, so clearly, anything that can help reduce your risk is worth taking note of.
One often ignored lifestyle strategy is to make sure you’re taking good care of your teeth and gums to avoid gum disease, as this condition also increases your risk of several other serious diseases, including:
- Lung disease
- Stroke, and
- Heart disease
It’s still not clear whether poor oral health is a direct cause of heart disease or merely another risk marker. But in either case, oral health is a fundamental part of optimal health, and there’s convincing evidence linking the state of your teeth and gums to your overall health.
How Poor Oral Health is Linked to Heart Disease
The link between gum disease and heart disease may not be obvious, but chronic inflammation is a hallmark of both conditions and inflammation in your body plays a major role in the build-up of plaque in your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack.
The question is: Can brushing your teeth twice a day have an impact on your risk of developing heart disease?
According to this study, the answer is yes.
BBC News writes:
“This is the first time that researchers have looked at whether the frequency of teeth brushing has any bearing on the risk of developing heart disease.
… Researchers found those with the worst oral hygiene had a 70 percent increased chance of developing the condition compared with those who brush their teeth twice a day.
Those with poor oral hygiene also tested positive in blood samples for proteins which are suggestive of inflammation.” [Emphasis mine.]
That’s a pretty significant increase in disease risk!
It’s also a potent testimony to the fact that heart disease is a condition that can be prevented, most of the time, by leading a healthy lifestyle — which includes the simple act of brushing your teeth regularly to prevent periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease involves both bone and the tissue that is in contact with that bone. From this contact, bacteria and toxic, inflammatory compounds can easily enter your blood stream.
Once in your blood stream, these toxic compounds can harm the lining of your blood vessels, which can lead to both strokes and heart attacks. So, reducing inflammation is of primary importance for your overall health, and brushing your teeth regularly is one of ways to ensure you don’t carry chronic inflammation in your body.
Your Diet – The MOST Important Way to Reduce Inflammation!
As I’ve discussed before, many things could trigger a heart attack, but in order to prevent most cardiac events in the first place, you must start at the prevention stage. It’s also a whole lot easier than trying to avoid everything that might trigger an attack.
First, I recommend going through this checklist on How to Determine Your Cardiovascular Health, which includes both blood tests and simple do-at-home tests to help you determine if you’re at risk of developing heart disease. About 20 percent of heart attacks go undetected, so checking your susceptibility is a good idea.
Next, you’ll want to evaluate your lifestyle to ensure you’re doing everything you can to prevent chronic inflammation.
Brushing your teeth twice a day is just the beginning; there are several other strategies that will help prevent chronic inflammation in your body.
First and foremost, it’s important to realize that the food you and your family chose to eat is your primary ally for the prevention of inflammation that can lead to heart disease.
Much focus is placed on cholesterol levels and the ratio of “good” HDL and “bad” LDL cholesterol, but unfortunately, many conventional recommendations for how to improve your cholesterol levels are seriously flawed.
For example, it’s vitally important to realize that there are different sizes of LDL cholesterol particles, and it’s the LDL particle size that is relevant (as opposed to just the overall level of LDL’s),as small particles get stuck easily and causes more inflammation.
Naturally, the drug companies really don’t want you to know this!
Statins do not modulate LDL particle size, so if this became widespread knowledge it would severely limit the number of people going on cholesterol-lowering drugs.
The only way to make sure your LDL particles are large enough to not get stuck and cause inflammation and damage is through your diet. In fact, it’s one of the major things that insulin does. So rather than taking a statin drug, you really need to focus on your diet to reduce the inflammation in your body, which is aggravated by:
- Oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked, scrambled eggs)
- Eating lots of sugar and grains
- Eating foods cooked at high temperatures
- Eating trans fats
A Word on Preventing Tooth Decay Naturally
There are certain countries that that have virtually no dental decay. No, it’s not because of fluoride in the water, it’s because as a culture they avoid sugars and processed foods that cause the bacteria that cause decay in the first place.
Most people whose diet includes very little sugar and few processed foods have very low rates of tooth decay. So limiting, or eliminating sugar, and avoiding processed foods — along with regular cleanings with your natural dentist — will ensure that your teeth stay healthy naturally.Keep in mind that brushing your teeth too hard and for longer than is necessary may also cause damage to enamel and gums, and may not even make your teeth any cleaner.
According to previous research, the ideal brushing time is two minutes and the ideal pressure 150 grams, which is about the weight of an orange. They found that when people brushed for longer than two minutes using pressure greater than 150 grams, no additional plaque was removed, so there’s simply no need to brush longer or harder than that.
If you are uncertain about the proper way to brush your teeth, or need advice on the correct size, shape and consistency of your toothbrush, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist.
Other Lifestyle Changes That Will Naturally Reduce Inflammation
In addition to avoiding the dietary hazards just mentioned, here are a few more recommendations that can have a profound impact on reducing inflammation in your body and reducing your risk of heart disease.
- One of the most important steps in lowering your heart disease risk is to take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil.
- Make sure you’re eating the right foods for your body’s unique nutritional type.
- Optimize your insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance, a major risk factor for heart disease. If your fasting insulin level is not lower than three, consider limiting or eliminating your intake of grains and sugars until you optimize your insulin level. Then, to keep your insulin levels where they should be, get plenty of exercise and follow my nutrition plan, which will automatically limit your intake of foods that raise insulin levels.
- Make sure your vitamin D levels are optimized. Most people are not aware that vitamin D can have a profoundly dramatic impact on normalizing blood pressure andlowering your risk for heart disease.
Your best source of vitamin D is through your skin being exposed to the sun. In the wintertime, however, you may need to take an oral supplement. Just make sure you’re taking the right form of vitamin D in the appropriate amounts to reap the benefits, and remember to get your vitamin D levels tested regularly.
Two Additional Heart-Healthy Moves
The strategies listed above will help prevent a variety of chronic diseases caused by chronic inflammation in your body. As for heart disease prevention specifically, there are two additional strategies that need mention.
- Boost your good cholesterol and lower your triglyceride levels: Many people strive to reduce their cholesterol levels to protect their heart, but high levels of good (HDL) cholesterol are believed to protect your heart from disease. Meanwhile, high triglycerides are an incredibly potent risk factor for heart disease. In combination, high triglycerides and low HDL levels are an even bigger risk; this ratio is even more important to your heart health than the standard good vs. bad cholesterol ratio! In fact, one study found that people with the highest ratio of triglycerides to HDL had 16 times the risk of heart attack as those with the lowest ratio of triglycerides to HDL. So while you strive to keep your HDL cholesterol levels up, you’ll want to decrease your triglycerides. How?
You can increase your HDL levels by exercising and getting plenty of omega-3 fats like those from krill oil. And triglycerides are easily decreased by exercising and avoiding grains and sugars in your diet.
- Check your iron levels: Iron is nature’s rusting agent. If you have excessive levels in your body you are at risk of major oxidation, or premature aging. Excess iron will also increase your risk of heart disease. If you are a man, or a woman in menopause, you should get your iron levels tested and, if they’re too high, take steps to reduce them.